Protesters Question Transparency and 'Community Benefits' of City's Cannabis Licensing Process

One high-ranked applicant reportedly involved in court case regarding discrimination against women

Published : Wednesday, June 12, 2019 | 4:51 AM

Seen above, members of The League of United Latin American Citizens protest at City Council meeting on June 10, 2019 (left); Art Pulido, community organizer (top right) and Andrea Garcia (bottom tight) address the Council. Images courtesy KPAS.

Pasadena’s six successful applicants for cannabis retail dispensaries may soon hit some unexpected speed bumps on their way to doing business in the city.

A group of protesters Monday challenged the City Council’s cannabis licensing process, claiming that the City had not followed its own procedures in the selection of cannabis retailers.

Andrea Garcia, of the League of Latin American Citizens, reading a statement by Martin Gordon of the Pasadena Community Coalition, told the Council during public comment, “There was to be an initial review of candidates by the consultant…along with community input on the seamless integration of the sites into the fabric of the community.”

Garcia continued, “This process was to be open and transparent. The scores for all applicants need to be released immediately, and the individual scores on social equity must be included in the scores.”

Los Angeles political organizer Art Pulido backed up Garcia with his own statement, telling the Council that it “should go back and look at what happened, and then come back and re-evaluate on why the community was not involved in the process.”

“The speakers have brought up some valid points,” Vice-Mayor Tyron Hampton told City Manager Steve Mermell, following the comments.

Hampton added that he believed that there should be “more transparency” in the applicant scores, especially in how they reflect the ways the selected retailers might benefit their neighborhoods.

Hampton also told Mermell that he had received information that one of the applicants, whom he did not name, was currently involved in a court case regarding discriminatory practices against women.

“I hope we are going to follow up on that,” Hampton told Mermell, who said he had received the same information.

“All of the information that we have received will be vetted with the assistance of the City Attorney’s office to determine if it has any bearing upon the evaluation of the proposals,” responded Mermell.

Mermell also told Hampton that the City had held community forums in which potential cannabis retailers were walked through the application process.

The application document was also available online, said Mermell, and said the City received “a lot of public comment” during the application period, “particularly in the area of social justice and community benefits.”

The City also included scoring of applicants based on community benefits, said Mermell.

Mermell noted that each of the applicants were instructed to show how the applicant “seeks to ensure that persons most harmed by cannabis criminalization and poverty, through a share in the ownership, management, employment or other benefits, (would result) in high quality, well-paying jobs and other benefits.”

Applicants were also asked to highlight their involvement with local community non-profit groups, such as youth educational organizations, along with partnerships with local businesses, said Mermell.

Mermell added that he expects to post details of the full scores of the six highest-ranked applicants online this week, and eventually post all scores from the approximately 130 total applicants, “so that people can see what the proposers are suggesting in terms of community benefits.”

Those benefits would then be considered as part of the proposers’ Conditional Use Permit application, he said.

Responding to a question from Councilmember John Kennedy, Mermell told the Council that the six highest-ranked applicants must now locate and secure a location, and then apply for a Conditional Use Permit with the Planning Commission.

‘The process is now moving forward in a manner to which the voters approved.” said Mermell.

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